A jury has awarded $89 million in damages to the family of a man killed in a 2008 crash with a drunken driver, and to the man’s fiancée and daughter.
“The eye-popping numbers were the jury’s attempt to send a message the only way they could,” said attorney Mark Bronson, who won the case after a one-day trial in Franklin County Circuit Court.
He said he doubts his clients will ever see a fraction of the money. But he said the jury’s disgust with drunken driving was unmistakable.
Officials said that Troy Zerna, 20, at the time at the crash, was already driving on a hardship license after a previous DWI when he caused a head-on collision Feb. 2, 2008, on Highway 100 near Gray Summit.
Zerna’s blood-alcohol level was 0.20 percent, 2 1/2 times the legal limit to drive, according to Missouri Highway Patrol testimony at the trial.
Dennis Riegel Jr., 28, of Washington, was killed in the crash. His fiancée, Christine Hodge, who was 13 weeks pregnant, was seriously hurt.
Hodge, now 24, has since had a daughter, Bailee. The couple had been returning from a shopping mall where they had registered for gifts for their upcoming wedding.
The jury awarded $53.5 million to Hodge and $35.5 million to the couple’s daughter and Riegel’s parents.
Five months before the crash, Zerna’s was arrested and his license was suspended for his involvement in another DWI-related wreck, officials said.
Zerna has been sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison on DWI-related convictions involving both crashes.
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